Celebrate Spring

The weather may have warmed up, but this is no time to put away the pot for preparing soup. This is a time when a bounty of fresh, colourful vegetables show up at the market, ready to combine with ingredients we have had in our winter store cupboards. To cheer us all up, it’s time to showcase some of these delicate and vibrant flavours of the season.

Sun-Dried Tomato Tortellini Soup

Tomato & tortellini soupIn the 1990s sun-dried tomatoes were very much considered “in”. It was almost impossible to escape them. If you recall, they were turning up everywhere from pizza shops to trendy restaurants, in everything from salads to the most ornate garnishes.

Food snobs like me turned our noses up with a stubborn flourish. We considered this product, with its sour, chewy, pungent taste, an ill-conceived food fad. It was also about the same time that shop-bought tortellini was invading the country – and we disdained these too.

Ring-shaped pasta stuffed with meat, cheese, vegetables, or a combination of all three, were supposed be made by hand, not formed by a machine rolling and slicing dough into flat squares and then filling and folding these into perfectly symmetrical rings.

How wrong I was!?!? Age and time are great levellers, and as we get on in years – and slow down ourselves – we realise how damn important speed and efficiency can be.

These products were never for spurning. I should have been much more willing to applaud. Used in the right way they can contribute to making the every day seem much more interesting without too much as an ounce of effort.

After all, tomatoes were first salted and dried by the Aztecs in 700BC, but we have to thank the Italians for turning sun-dried tomato production into an art form on an industrial scale. Typically, the fruit spends up to 10 days in the sun. The cherry type loses 88% of its fresh weight, while larger ones shed up to 93% during the process. One kilogramme of sun-dried tomatoes is derived from around 10kg of fresh ones – but the nutritional value remains the same.

As June to October is the tomato season, spring is the perfect time to pull out a jar of the sun-dried variety, especially if you are minded to make this easy soup. It beats the basic version every single time.

INGREDIENTS
  • 170g (6 oz) chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (reserve oil as well)
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 170g (6 oz) chopped onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 900ml (32 oz). vegetable or chicken stock, low-sodium
  • 340g (12 oz). crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 225g (8 oz). cheese tortellini
  • 2 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter
  • 170g (6 oz) heavy cream
  • 141g (5 oz). baby spinach
  • freshly grated Parmesan
  • 85g (3 oz) chopped parsley
METHOD
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, add the sun-dried tomatoes and some of its oil, tomato paste, garlic, onion, and carrots.
  2. Sauté for about 3 minutes until tender. Add sugar, stock, crushed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Purée soup using a hand blender or carefully pour into a kitchen-top blender and process in batches if necessary.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large pot cook the tortellini according to package instructions.
  6. When ready add tortellini, cold butter and stir until creamy. Then add the heavy cream, and spinach and mix until the spinach leaves are wilted and the tortellini is warmed through.
  7. Garnish with grated parsley and Parmesan and serve immediately.
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